The highly-anticipated Ethereum Metropolis hard fork is due to occur in the coming weeks. While speculation has been rife that the date will fall somewhere at the end of September, but it is looking increasingly likely that it will now be early October.
Talk of the fork has been building since the release of the Etereum road map for 2017 indicated that an upcoming system release would contain major upgrades to the platform.
The ‘hard fork’ will occur when the platform introduces an upgrade known Metropolis, which is designed to relieve a lot of the pressure currently on the Ethereum ecosystem and add better functionality for users.
The Metropolis upgrade is made up of two parts. The first, known as the ‘Byzantium’ testnet is set to be deployed on 18 September. The Byzantium test phase is projected to last for around three to four weeks.
The first testnet will then be followed by the second component of the upgrade, known as ‘Constantinople’.
Although it has been widely reported that the hard fork would be coming at the end of September, Coindesk quotes Ethereum developer James Hudson as saying:
“For all the coin media that keep saying September. It’s not September. Its October 9 unless something goes wrong with the testnet.”
This release timetable could be pushed back if things go wrong during the test phase.
Why is this important?
There are two main reasons why the upcoming hard fork is important for Ethereum and its users.
Firstly, it allows a number of significant upgrades to be made to the Ethereum platform. Among the scheduled upgrades coming to the platform are:
- Byzantium will contain the foundations for the implementation of zero-knowledge proofs (or ZK-SNARKs) that will allow for higher-levels of anonymity across the ecosystem (technical information on ZK-SNARKs can be found here)
- the solidity programming language will be upgraded to make it easier for programmers to work with smart contracts – including new functionality and easier approach to encourage new programmers to use smart contracts
- account abstraction will mean users have more control over private keys and reduce the threat of quantum computer hacking
Secondly, it is hoped that the upgrades will increase the amount to users. This should provide a good litmus test as to the enthusiasm that businesses and users from outside the cryptocurrency/blockchain space actually have for the platform. There may also be an increase or decrease in the price of ether.
This isn’t the end of Ethereum updates. The next one, known as ‘Serenity’ will follow, although the time frame for that is currently not known.